The first prison based dog training programme in the UK, Paws for Progress was introduced to HM YOI Polmont in August 2011, and continues to operate successfully as we approach our third anniversary. We have been working hard to ensure the project is sustainable in the long term and are very pleased to announce that Paws for Progress was registered as a Community Interest Company (CIC) in February 2014 (see ‘About us: Paws for Progress CIC’). We are very grateful to our project partners, funders and supporters who continue to provide excellent support throughout the course delivery and project development (see ‘Our partners, funders and supporters’ for more information) which enables us to continue to improve the outcomes of the young people and dogs who are involved.
Latest reviews of our progress
We have now completed eleven cycles of the course at HM YOI Polmont, and the response is hugely positive. Overall, there have now been 66 young men who have taken part in Paws for Progress; over 80% of these continued to support us post-graduation as peer mentors and volunteer assistants, demonstrating their high commitment. Rebecca Leonardi (who instigated the project) is researching the efficacy of Paws for Progress in delivering the intended outcomes (as the focus of her PhD) and it will therefore be subject to a comprehensive review, due to be completed by the end of the year.
In the meantime, we are delighted to report some of the headline results and initial findings e.g. in the last year (as of May 2014):
– 30 young men completed the 8-week dog training course
– Almost 300 SQA qualifications gained in core skills such as reading, writing, calculation and measuring
– 100% of participants felt the course had helped them, and that it had a positive effect on their understanding of dogs too
– 21 dogs gained APDT Good Companion Awards
– 55 dogs successfully re-homed
Feedback from the young men involved in the pilot project has been extremely positive, with participants feeling more confident about their communication skills, problem solving abilities, patience and management of emotions as they progress through the course. The young men feel a real sense of accomplishment, gained from the achievement of targets and goals, and from seeing the improvements in the dogs they work with (see examples below).Over 75% of our graduates have also continued to engage with us following their release, allowing us to continue to provide support and facilitate volunteering opportunities.
The dogs participating in Paws for Progress have continued to respond very positively to the training they receive. Overall, 111 dogs have now been successfully rehomed, and 48 APDT Good Companion Awards gained. The students work very hard under the guidance of Paws for Progress staff to ensure the dogs’ continuously progress.
Whilst the full evaluation of the dog outcomes is ongoing, the initial findings are very positive, demonstrating improvements to behaviour across training tasks. The dogs’ improved behaviour and sociability also increases their appeal to adopters, and the extra promotion the students’ work provides can help these great dogs find the loving homes they so deserve.
Following on from the successful Paws for Progress Event at HM YOI Polmont last year, we will be taking part in a number of conferences and events during 2014 to showcase our work and share information with supporters and stakeholders. This includes attending the IAHIAO Symposium 2014, where we will engage in important discussions to share perspectives, practices and knowledge in Human Animal Interactions (HAI).
Paws for Progress CIC is based within the University of Stirling, who are supporting the development alongside the new and exciting Stirling Human Animal Interactions Research (SHAIR) Centre. We will host a HAI Workshop at the University of Stirling later this year, and will provide you with more details soon.
Paws for Progress continues to receive widespread interest and support and we are thrilled that this momentum continues to grow.
Thank you to everyone who is helping us achieve our ambition to deliver positive change in the lives of both people and animals.
We look forward to sharing more news with you soon.